Moscow: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, expected to reclaim the presidency in March elections, has promised a balanced foreign policy but warned against outside interference in domestic affairs.

 Addressing Russians on Tuesday on primetime television to explain his controversial decision to seek a third mandate as president, Putin said his foreign critics should mind their own business and "fight inflation" and "obesity" in a thinly veiled but startling dig at the United States.

"In the past, today and in the future we have conducted and will conduct a balanced policy aimed at creating favourable conditions for the country's  development," Putin said.

"And this means that we want to have good neighbourly, friendly ties with all our partners."

Putin spoke after many analysts in the West warned that his planned Kremlin comeback could deal a blow to the US-Russian "reset" in ties and usher in frostier relations with the West.

Replying to a request from his interviewers to comment on Western attempts to brand him a "hawk," Putin said, "First off, a hawk is a good little bird. I am a person anyway. But I am against any cliches."

"Naturally, we've protected and will protect in the most active manner our national interests but we've always done this in a civilised way and will continue to do so in the future."
     
Putin's announcement of his decision to seek the presidency which he already held between 2000 and 2008 shocked many in the West.

Many critics, especially abroad, have accused the former KGB officer of seeking to bully smaller neighbours and pressure them into closer cooperation with Moscow.

"I can tell these critics -- and they are clearly unscrupulous critics: you know what, mind your own business," Putin said.

(Agencies)